Many of you may be old hands at King Cakes, but for the Accidental Locavore this was a culinary first! It's an old New Orleans tradition, usually connected with Mardi Gras, but according to the (very long) history that came with my cake, it was actually something that was baked and eaten during the Epiphany season (from January 6 to Ash Wednesday). Since the United States is a country with a short attention span for everything, including religious traditions, it's become associated with Mardi Gras celebrations.
Now, I've seen King Cakes before but was never terribly curious about what lay under lumpy rings of dough with the garish green and purple icing. And even when I'd read about them on the Internet and had seen some celebrity chef's new take on it, it was just never something I would find myself craving. So how did I end up with a massive box being dropped on my doorstep on Fat Tuesday (in case you were wondering what Mardi Gras translated to)?
The friend who has the patience to edit my blog (and knows how grateful I am!), is good friends with someone from NOLA. In emails back and forth about some recipe or another, the King Cake came up. I asked what was in it and shortly thereafter, found myself in possession of one.
If you haven't had one, it looks like a coffee cake with a lot of sugary icing and colored sugar. A plastic baby is baked inside and the lucky person who gets the baby is either considered King for a day or is responsible for supplying the next cake. As it turns out, the frosting colors are there for a reason, which made me feel better (not being a fan of purple in any form, but especially frosting). The gold, green and purple signify power, faith and justice and in some circles, the Three Kings.
Now you're wondering how it tasted. The cake itself is a good coffee cake, which made me nostalgic for coffee cakes -- something that seems to have disappeared or morphed into muffins (it might be time to see how my friend Alan's mother's coffee cake recipe has held up over the years). The icing and sugar hurl it into a sugar stratosphere that is rarely encountered. A slice combined with tea or coffee is enough to launch a long-lasting sugar and caffeine high. But, like many seasonal goodies, once a year it's a treat!
My friend said "It is the spirit of New Orleans in flour/sugar form, and that spirit is a good thing -- fun, family, friends, parties." Who can argue with that? Laissez les bon temps rouler!